Growing up in Brooklyn, we played a gamed called “Red Light, Green Light, 123” which consisted of standing with my forehead to a tree, saying the name of the game as fast as possible, and then spinning around to see a few friends rushing up. If they were still in motion, they had to go back about 10 feet. If I turned too slow, and they tagged me, they won and got to stand at the tree.
Somedays I feel like I’m living a kind of skewed Zen equivalent of “Good News, Bad News, 123.” I spin around because something good happened. Or I’m trying to tag the person at the tree and lose my balance. To be more specific, my daughter calls with news that she finally got the job she wants — good news! My friend and I talk about the situation with state funding for the arts and dismantling of the arts commission — bad news! Like most humans, I grab hold of the good, pull it closer and try to push away the bad. Like most humans who have read a lot of great books by poets and philosophers about how the nature of the universe defies such good-news-bad-news labels, I still crave the good and repel the bad, living in my little rushing spin of aversion, desire and apathy. Knowing what it is doesn’t make it go away.
I have moments when I can press my forehead on the tree trunk and feel its pulse. Or I can fall over, laughing because of how ludicrous the game is, suddenly clear that winning only means holding that space until someone else tags me and claims it. Every so often, I can land in the wide perspective that how I label this fluxes of the life force is just a game. Meanwhile, the sun shines through the leaves or the moon through the clouds, the children play on the sidewalk and I watch my memory of myself: a girl happy to be at the tree, happy to be rushing up behind the person at the tree, happy to be at play.